‘All good things come to an end’, the saying goes, but is it necessarily true? In the case of the spring, now that it’s ‘over’, we are benefitting from a nation covered in beautiful green trees, blossoming gardens, plants full of chirping birds and wonderfully active creepy crawlies. All of this nature coming to life means that now is a great time to start your compost heap.
Warm weather, moisture in the air, soil (which naturally contains thousands of composting microorganisms), plenty of insects, and an abundance of grass and leaves means you can get started right away. When leaves fall from the tree and turn black, we call this ‘humus’, and when grass gets cut, it goes brown and shrinks.
In nature, life never ends – the leaves and grass, given enough time, in the right conditions, will turn into compost; a natural fertiliser that will encourage further growth.
In this article, we want to inspire you to compost at home all year round!
What do you need to create compost?
There are six components for healthy compost:
- Brown leaves, paper, sawdust, straw, twigs
- Green grass, food scraps, leaves, peelings, coffee grounds, manure
- Microorganisms: bacteria, fungi and microbes
- Macroorganisms: bugs!
You’re also going to want a bit of equipment, although each of these are optional:
- Composter (recommended for British climate)
- Gardening gloves
- Shovel or trowel
- Watering can
Where do you make your year-round composter?
You have several options, with the simplest being a pile on the ground, or a small dug hole in your garden. Of course, both of these options will make you vulnerable to the funky smell that composting encourages, and also pests, so we recommend you go with a box, a tub or a bin. It’s important that air can access your composter, so it’s worth purchasing a professional piece of equipment, which are fortunately available for as a little as £15.
What precautions should you take?
The smaller the items you are putting into your compost, the better. Finely chop food scraps and cut up any leaves (if your waste is still identifiable in your compost – the compost is not ready).
Keep your compost pile out of the rain – you want spongy moisture, not a dirty pool!
When forming your compost at the beginning, place alternative layers of green and brown waste, each about 6 inches deep, and add water. There should be anything between half and two thirds of the mixture made up of brown waste.
Use a trowel or shovel to mix up the compost occasionally to make sure it is getting an even amount of air and moisture.
You can buy some worms (Tiger Worms are the best) to help digest the waste and turn it into compost. In fact, the more worms, the better, and you can even buy entire wormeries!
Your composting area should be no more than 1m², a bigger or smaller space can cause heat retention issues.
Do not put in:
- Meat or dairy products
- Cat, dog or baby waste
- Diseased plants or perennial weeds (dandelions or thistle)
- Plastics, glass or metals
When is the best time of year to start composting?
The answer to this question is the cause of some debate. Some feel that winter is the best time to start, because by the time the compost is formed, it will be spring. The trouble with starting your compost heap in winter is that you need to provide heat, often in the form of coffee grounds, thermal insulation, or manure, in order to get the process kick-started.
We feel that the perfect time to start composting is right now, around the end of May, start of June, just in time for the hottest part of summer – July. When July hits, you want fully formed compost, so that you can really make the most of your heap during the summer months for maintaining your garden. Bare in mind it takes roughly 21 days for your mixture to turn into compost, and planting in the summer is not always advised.
Right now, before the summer, the temperature is ideal, microbes are active, there is plenty of green and brown material available, and you have just enough time to make the mixture in order to help your flower or vegetable patch get through the summer. Be sure, if the summer hits earlier and the temperatures jump up, that you add moisture to your compost to stop it from drying out.
Good luck composting!